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« Desperately seeking happiness | Main | The Nobel President »

October 09, 2009


Sujatha: This is such a fabulous story or rather, a story within a story. It is rarely ever that we find out the identity of a second hand book's previous owner(s). But in this case, the name on the cover, a public figure and your nose for sleuthing, all came together to unveil the history of this particular copy. It is always fun when we own a book which has its own story apart from the one within the covers.


I've been fortunate enough since posting the blog on F-n-S to have heard from three people who knew and loved Miss Alyce. Here's Miss Alyce in their words:

"... While a Commander in the Navy, my husband worked with her while stationed at Singapore) for 3 years. We were so blessed and fortunate to have made her acquaintance! She is a 'one-of-a-kind' and it really is no wonder that you found the book and unearthed a Gem! ..."

"Miss Alyce's brother is John Toski. He lives in Interlochen/Green Lake, Michigan. While I am reluctant to print a phone number, I would suggest that directory assistance can help you out. I am certain that he would be delighted to answer any questions you may have on the life of his sister. I know Mr. Toski pretty well. He's my father-in law. Rest assured that Ms. Alyce was indeed everything you imagine...and then some."

"I was Miss Alyce's last Commanding Officer. She was 84 when I first met her. Ten years earlier she had shot a hole-in-one at one of the golf courses in Singapore. She was still a champion bowler at 80.

During the Malay riots against the Chinese in the early 70's she secreted a young Chinese boy out of the middle of the rioting by hiding him in the backseat of her MG under a cover. She was a hero when she pulled into the village with the boy. She became a local legend.

After being on the island almost 39 years, Miss Alyce knew everyone. There was a time when the President came to town and we needed to provide temporary quarters for his AWACS Squadron. We didn't have enough furniture on hand so we went looking for companies that would rent us furniture. People in Singapore just don't rent furniture. As we were walking away from our last hope the man stopped us and said, "Is Miss Alyce Pekors still working over there?" I assured him she was. His face lit up and he said, "Let me see what we can do." Miss Alyce's name opened all kinds of doors in Singapore.

Miss Alyce came into my office about three days after I arrived and placed a cup full of chocolate covered raisins on my desk. She said she would do that every morning. I thanked her and she shuffled back to her desk. True to her word she was back at my desk the next morning with another cup of chocolate covered raisins - for which I thanked her again. After about three straight days of this I could see that she wasn't going to stop so I told her, as politely as I could, that although I loved the jesture, if she kept this up I would be 400 pounds when I left the command. I asked her NOT to bring any more in. She was firm, she was determined to give me some sweets each day.

Eventually I talked her down to 5 chocolate covered raisins each morning. This she did for as long as she was working in the building. It gave us a chance to talk and I heard some wonderfull stories.

Miss Alyce was witty and very funny. Her heart was HUGE and all encompassing.

I never told Miss Alyce that I would put those chocolate covered raisins in my refridgerator uneaten. I had quite an accumulation by the time she left. She never knew. I shared them (and the story) with all of the attendees at the dedication of a memorial to her in the building she worked in."

A lovely, amazing lady, indeed!

Sleuthing for provenance can be wonderful. I thought you were heading elsewhere with this story, though, Sujatha. One of my first books was, no surprise, Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat, a copy from the early '60s. In 1991, shortly after I took a position at my local public library, one of the staff brought to me a worn copy of the book. It was the copy I had been given almost three decades prior. Evidently, my parents had weeded my collection years before. Who knows how many children's libraries the copy had passed through before it ended up as a donation to my public library, just weeks after I started working there? I have retained the copy, for good.

Wow, to have gotten back the exact same copy that you had as a child! That's synchronicity, indeed.
Although, I'm sure something like that could happen to my kids in the future at some library book sale or the other "Hey, Mom- that's the book I used to have as a kid, can we buy it back again?", is something that I dread hearing from my daughter as we peruse the books there;)

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